House of Commons Hansard #152 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of International Trade presented a clear vision of Canada's trade agenda for the Americas. His message was unambiguous. The Americas are a key priority. To that end, we have already started work with the U.S. and Mexico to further strengthen our NAFTA partnership.

Last year Canada signed a foreign investment protection and promotion agreement with Peru. This is the first such agreement that Canada has signed in eight long years. Negotiation of bilateral trade agreements with Caribbean and Latin American countries is another key part of our plan.

We aim to build--

International Trade
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the public accounts committee's investigation of the RCMP pension fund heard new allegations of obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence.

Testimony indicated that Deputy Commissioner Gauvin interfered with access to information requests. Files have gone missing. Just two weeks ago, his executive assistant got into the secure area of RCMP archives before it closed on a Friday in an attempt to access files the committee had requested.

While Mr. Zaccardelli is gone, his deputy commissioner is still in a position to obstruct and destroy evidence. Why?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Questions

Noon

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, this government is working to get to the bottom of this scandal, which of course occurred under the previous Liberal government.

Just last week we heard about a former Liberal MP who in fact was engaged in highly questionable contracting schemes to enrich himself at the expense of RCMP members. We learned also that he had brought that information to the attention of Liberal ministers who did absolutely nothing to stop the scam.

Now we are pushing forward with a continued public investigation at the public accounts committee. We have also appointed an investigator who will report back to the minister and publicly.

Human Resources and Social Development
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, a recent study shows that the federal support program that gives families $1,200 per year is not effective because it hurts public child care, discourages women from working and benefits the wealthy.

Given that these conclusions echo the Bloc Québécois' warnings, does the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development agree that it is time to turn the $1,200 benefit into a refundable tax credit?

Human Resources and Social Development
Oral Questions

Noon

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, we believe in choice in child care. We also are investing $5.6 billion per year in child care.

However, why is that party supporting Bill C-303, a private member's bill that is against funding to the provinces? That is the question.

Pet Food
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, half of all Canadians have a pet. They are wondering why their government does no testing on pet food, with no regulation, no inspection and no protection.

There are tales of kidney failure in cats, serious sickness in dogs, and massive recalls of pet food. No wonder ordinary Canadians do not trust the Conservative government.

How many more pets need to fall ill or, worse, even die before there is any real action from this government?

Pet Food
Oral Questions

Noon

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the CFIA has had the responsibility for regulating food for human consumption. It is reviewing the regulations regarding pet food coming into this country and in due time will report back.

Pet Food
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

That brings question period to an end.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to nine petitions.

Constitution Act, 2007 (Democratic representation)
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Democratic representation).

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

May 11th, 2007 / 12:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented on Thursday, June 22, 2006, be concurred in.

The deportation of undocumented workers in Canada continues to tear families apart, hurting entire communities and causing economic problems in industries like the booming construction industry in my riding in downtown Toronto.

In the last years we have seen children being used as bait in schools and families risking their health and well-being by going underground to escape deportation. Shamefully, this is being done in a country that needs immigrants and skilled workers.

The Conservative government is continuing the old Liberal tradition of failing to set the immigration target at 1% of the population, which is the figure that we need to replenish the workforce. The NDP has been pushing for the regularization of undocumented workers. We have been calling for an effective program, particularly for workers in high demand sectors, such as construction.

We believe that the government should allow people without status who have already been working in Canada for many years and who are calling Canada home, some of whom are paying taxes, to be given the opportunity to apply for legal status.

Canada needs an immigration target of at least 1% of the country's total population to enhance Canada's population. That would be about 330,000 new immigrants a year. Yet this year our immigrant target is 240,000 to 265,000. The target is much lower than the 1% that we need. We need to build up our base to benefit our economy.

It is estimated that there are as many as 200,000 undocumented workers in Canada employed in trades and low paying sectors such as the hospitality and construction industries. There may be as many as 15,000 undocumented Portuguese and Brazilian workers in the construction trades in Toronto alone. These workers, who have been contributing to the economy, are exploited because of their lack of status. The government is doing nothing to help.

These workers, while helping us alleviate the chronic shortage of skilled labour, do not necessarily contribute to the income tax base. According to the Ontario Construction Secretariat, the underground economy has cost $1.3 billion in lost government revenues.

The effect that deportation has had on the community, especially in downtown Toronto, has been devastating. I can give some figures. Between 1996 to 2000, 292 Portuguese citizens were deported. Between 2001 and 2004, 443 Portuguese citizens were deported. From 2005 to mid-year in 2007, already 727 Portuguese citizens were deported. Imagine how devastating that is to that community.

The Alliance of Portuguese Clubs and Associations of Ontario has asked the minister to implement a moratorium on deportations to allow the opportunity to discuss various options to regularize these undocumented workers. Unfortunately the minister has not listened. The Portuguese-Canadian Congress and the Federation of Portuguese Canadian Business and Professionals stated in a letter:

We believe that the consequences of pursuing the current strategy of strict enforcement of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act will be seriously detrimental to Canada's economy and would be contrary to our strong humanitarian principles.

We fear that this strategy...if pursued will deter other undocumented workers from coming forward and will drive them further underground which will ultimately be more costly to our society. These individuals are the most vulnerable living among us and they will continue to be further victimized.

As I have said in the House on many occasions, undocumented workers and their families live in fear today because the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has failed to act. The economic consequence of the minister's continued refusal to act in the best interests of these workers can be seen across Canada.

In July 2006, the Canadian Construction Association stated:

As the largest industry sector in Canada, the construction industry is facing unprecedented demand for labour. According to the Construction Sector Council, between 2005 and 2014, approximately 150,000 people will be needed to meet impending retirements. Furthermore, between 2005 and 2010, an additional 41,000 workers will be needed to meet expected demand.

Those are staggering numbers, almost 200,000 workers short of our need. This surely begs the question, what are the Minister of Human Resources and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration doing? Are they asleep at the wheel alongside the absentee Minister of National Defence?

It is outrageous that we would leave the vital construction industry shortchanged over the next decade. The government clearly has no plan to address this major issue. It seems that shortchanging the construction industry is only the beginning. The government has also failed to act to reverse the devastating trend begun by the former Liberal government with regard to the immigration point system.

In the early 1990s, the Liberal government prioritized educated professionals and business people over skilled workers and family class immigrants. Today that is still the case. In 2005, 55% of new immigrants were professionals, compared with only 17% in 1990. The two lowest skills levels for new immigrants went in the opposite direction. Skilled labourers only accounted for 10% of new immigrants in 2005, compared to 37% in 1990. No wonder there is a shortage of workers.

We want professional workers to come to Canada. Unfortunately, the government has treated these most educated, most skilled immigrants like eternal second-class citizens. The Conference Board of Canada has reported that our economy loses about $5 billion each year because of underemployment of new immigrants whose foreign training, expertise and experience are not recognized in Canada.

People come to Canada thinking that their degrees qualify and yet when they arrive in Canada, they discover their degrees are not being recognized. That is really difficult for them. It gives a false picture of Canada. It is not fair to immigrants who move here in the hopes of bettering their lives.

When immigrants come to Canada they have to go through lots and lots of hoops in the current process. They do not necessarily know where to apply. They do not quite understand the assessment process. It is complicated. Different levels of government are involved. There are professional bodies. Yet there are no national procedures in place.

Furthermore, when people apply at CIC centres and visa offices overseas, they are not being told that this will happen to them. It would not be very difficult for us to assess their credentials before they came to Canada, and yet Canada refuses to act.

Each year Canada receives between 220,000 and 245,000 immigrants. In 2005 over 130,000 skilled workers were admitted into Canada with numbers only expected to increase. Immigrants in the past decade have accounted for 70% of Canada's net labour force growth. This trend is going to continue. Far too many of these highly skilled new immigrants are driving taxis and delivering pizzas. We are drawing these skilled labourers out of their home country where they are needed and yet their talents are being wasted in Canada.

According to a University of Toronto study by Dr. Ritz, the underutilization of skilled new immigrants represented a $15 billion earning deficit in 1996. Imagine what that number would be today.

What is happening? There has been nothing from the government but empty promises from the ministers and the Prime Minister saying that a plan will be coming, perhaps later, maybe in the late spring, sometime. We have not seen any action.

The NDP and I have presented a plan to improve the lives of tens of thousands of new immigrants in Canada who are underutilized, underpaid and undervalued. It is about time that we deal with the issue of foreign credentials.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has issued a dissenting opinion to the report that is in front of us today. It states--

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Vivian Barbot Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order concerning statements made by the member for Louis-Hébert during the period for statements by members.

In his statement, he referred to immigrants as imports. Soon, on May 18 of this year, in Montreal, former Haitian slaves will inaugurate Place de l'Unité in celebration of the harmonious relationships that have prevailed from the end of slavery to the present day. I find it unacceptable that in this House, a member should express the idea that immigrants are imports. I formally request that he retract his statement and apologize without delay.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I would like to thank the hon. member for Papineau for her statement. The Chair will rule on this matter shortly.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.